Let’s Talk: Is it time for indigenous people to be recognised in the Australian Constitution?

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition leader Bill Shorten are meeting in Sydney today, Thursday August 4, to discuss a

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition leader Bill Shorten are meeting in Sydney today, Thursday August 4, to discuss a referendum to recognise indigenous people in the Australian Constitution.

While the PM acknowledges the Government is dedicated to changing the Constitution, he also says success will only be possible if there is bipartisan agreement and if the wording of the change is not controversial.

“We have to be satisfied that the language meets the purpose and of course is capable of winning support in the referendum… but we are committed to doing it,” Turnbull told reporters in Canberra on August 3.

Shorten says a treaty with indigenous people is also necessary, but there are concerns this might harm the successful implementation of Constitutional recognition.

The Australian‘s Paul Kelly has called for “leadership, honesty and compromise”, and Aboriginal Liberal MP Ken Wyatt told The Australian Constitutional recognition is at risk.

Liberal senator James Paterson told Sky News on Wednesday that he was yet to be convinced Constitutional change was appropriate.

“There is no place for race in our Constitution,” he says. “There should be no negative references to race, there should be no positive references to race. [The Constitution} is the rule book of Australia. I think there is a role for symbolism in public life but I’m yet to be convinced the Constitution is the place for that.

According to the Recognise campaign, now is the time to honour Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Constitution to ensure Australia’s whole story is told and that racial discrimination is dealt with once and for all.

You might recall that in 1967 a referendum was held to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were counted equally as citizens, with more than 90 per cent of voting Australians saying ‘yes’ to deleting two racially discriminatory references in the Constitution.

The Government acknowledged Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the “oldest continuing cultures in human history” during the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, yet Australian Human Rights Commission highlights the country’s founding document does not mention the indigenous people and therefore Australia’s story is incomplete.

The AHRC says by recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the preamble of the Constitution and ensuring it does not discriminate against anyone will not give some Australians more rights than others, but should build stronger relationships of trust and respect between all cultures.

What do you think of Constitutional reform on this issue? What do you think are the advantages or disadvantages?

  1. From any logical perspective the current generation of so called “Indigenous Australians” were born Australians, just like most of us, under the provision of the existing constitution. I see no good purpose on changing our constitution because of hand ringing about events some 228 years ago. There are far greater issues facing this country which the Government should be giving priority to than side issues which won’t change anything nor, in my opinion, ever make our Indigenous brothers happy!

    • Wiso  

      Very well put Anthony. That is my thoughts exactly.
      Surely we should all be Australians first and foremost and our ethnicity a secondary consideration. After all, there are very few full-blood aboriginal Australians left. Most of them today are mixed blood anyway.

  2. they arent the only ones not recognised in law what about carers ?? we dont exist either to the point where we can be denied legal help

  3. A BIG definite NO. Leave the constitution alone or everyone will want a mention and I shudder to think what would happen if we did change it. And it would split the nation into black and white and we should be trying for just all one.

  4. As was stated, there should be no racial remarks of any kind in a constitution. So the answer is not to ADD references of that type but to DELETE or CHANGE any other such references. That way it covers everybody equally and no one gets a special mention on or by which they can make demands or claim discrimination etc, as has happened in Canada.

  5. Marj  

    Leave the Constitution as is!

    Start changing it for one ‘group’, all the other ‘groups’ will want to ‘get on the bandwagon’!
    It’ll cause even MORE trouble than what we’ve got now.

  6. This issue could be resolved with one short sentence acknowledging the indigenous as first inhabitants-full stop.
    We don’t want to get bogged down with a lot of PC nonsense or create an excuse for more funding or race based policies and programs.

  7. Ronin  

    No. The Aboriginals were the first people in the land that is now Australia. They were not the first Australians – that falls to all who were here at Federation.

    Also a constitution should be devoid of any statement that gives rights or recognition to any person based on the colour of their skin or ethnicity. That is racist!

    • Actually, you’re quite right, Ronin. The only problem is, it’s not racist if it shows that white people are bad. The fact that we are all human and subject to the same frailties is not mentioned when someone is being accused of being a racist.

  8. Robert Schleibs  

    We need one rule that we all adhere to not a different rule for each group . One law for everybody so we are all on the same page including all members of government . No more entitlement ! Everybody gets treated the same

  9. They don’t seem to think of themselves as Australians .They have their own flag etc.call Australia Day as invasion day. If they want to ,let them do the same as the immigrants if they want to be Australian .Some might, but I doubt all will.Lots are half English Irish etc anyway . They want a say in parliament but seem want to keep separate also . We can’t have our cake and eat it too.

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